Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News

New milestone on Syrian teen Jouriya’s Girl who fled her war-torn home finds journey a ‘peaceful life’ in town


WHEN Jouriya Hajjeh arrived in the UK three years ago she barely knew any English having left her war-torn homeland Syria behind but is now thriving having settled in Widnes and begun pursuing her dream job of becoming a doctor.

The former Saints Peter and Paul High School star student has now shared insights into her experience as a refugee who found sanctuary from civil war in an industrial town in the North West of England.

Her family fled her home country first for Lebanon in 2013 after Syria collapsed into civil war triggering nearly a decade of conflict that continues to this day.

She hasn’t seen her eldest brother in seven years after he returned to Syria alone before relocating to Turkey, and her brother-in-law is in Greece “on an island in very poor conditions”.

Many of her family remain in Syria, where life is “horrifying” and “very sorrowful”, she said.

One of her hopes now is for her family to be reunited.

Another is to turn her experience of witnessing the impact of war to the task of helping others by becoming a doctor, and last month she was awarded a slew of top grades in her GCSEs despite only starting at Sts Peter and Paul in 2017.

The Carmel College A-level student told the Weekly News that as well as loving science and being inspired by the chance to pick what subjects to study, she had seen how conflict affected people and how it left them needing hospital treatment, and this has spurred her on to embrace her education – a value that runs in the family with her father having been a teacher in Syria.

Jouriya, 16, said: “When I was young, I saw how war results in so many people needing help in hospital.

“I have been interested in this field since that time, as I have wanted to help people who suffered from war for years, but I felt like I couldn’t do it as we moved to Lebanon and we became refugees.

“When I came to the UK, I was given the opportunit­y to have a proper education once more where I was able to know myself more and know what interests me the most, and I’ve always loved science.

“Being good at it as well is a big factor that made it easier for me to choose my A-levels to continue my pursuit of becoming a doctor.”

Originally from Al-Hasaka near the Turkish and Iraqi border and which recently had its water cut off for two months, her first languages are Kurdish and Arabic, and although she knew some English grammar and basic terms, she bolstered what she learned in class by devouring YouTube videos, English music and using books with the aid of Google Translate.

Teachers also played a big part in helping her to thrive.

She said: “What helped me to learn English so fast is that I started to watch a lot of videos on YouTube with people that only spoke English. I started reading books while using Google Translate to be able to understand and learn more and the biggest thing for me was having the will and courage to ask for help from my teachers in classes and doing extra work in my free time,

“I even started to listen to English music instead to be able to adapt to this new society and completely different world from my own.

“It was not easy at first, however it meant that I was able to communicat­e and talk comfortabl­y in a matter of a few months and made my life way easier at school.”

As the first Muslim in a hijab to attend Sts Peter and Paul, her classmates were initially “very curious” about her background, and she found that quickly learning the language helped her to communicat­e and settle.

Life in Widnes was “a bit scary” when she arrived and had to adapt to a new place, school and “completely different environmen­t”, but this became easier and she made “friends for life” who helped her, including close friend Chriselda Fernandes, who has moved on to Carmel College alongside her.

She is also keen to pay tribute to the teachers who helped her, saying: “When I came to school, the biggest support I got was from my mentor Miss Miller, and subsequent­ly from my EAL (English as an additional language) mentor Mrs Farrell and Ms Jedy.

“All of my teachers spent time with me doing extra work and helping me doing extra work and to fill the gaps in my education.

“I am very grateful to every one of them.”

The first people the Hajjeh family met in Widnes were the owners of the house they live in, who were “very welcoming and helpful” and are now “great family friends”.

Their neighbours also were “very friendly and welcoming”.

She said racism “hasn’t been that bad” in Widnes but when asked if there was anything that could improve public understand­ing of refugee issues, she said educating people and students would help to clear up “misunderst­andings” about different cultures and religions.

Her own family’s decision to leave Syria was not taken lightly.

She said: “I came to the UK through the UN from Lebanon when I was 13 years old, I do remember the journey coming here – it was a very difficult decision to decide to accept the offer of coming to the UK as we had to leave our family and friends in Lebanon behind us knowing we would not see them in a long time.

“My biggest hopes for the future are to have my family reunited again, achieve my dreams to be a doctor and to live in peace.”

Upheaval has now given way to acclimatis­ation, or as she put it: “I like the peaceful life in Widnes.”

Jouriya’s determinat­ion resulted in GCSE results spanning one 9, four 8s, three 7s, and two 6s this summer and as well as earning her a step towards her dream job, earned her school’s respect and gratitude.

Danielle Scott, Sts Peter and Paul principal, said: “Jouriya was an absolute pleasure to have as a student and she embodies the values that we hold dear here at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic High School.

“Her story is truly inspiring and demonstrat­es what can be achieved through hard work and determinat­ion - something that we try to instil in all our students.

“We would like to thank her for everything she brought to our community.

“We wish Jouriya the best of luck in the future and have no doubt that she will continue to make a positive contributi­on to the world around her, no matter where life takes her.”

 ??  ?? Jouriya Hajjeh (left) and Chriselda Fernandes have headed to Carmel College after storming their GCSEs at Saints Peter and Paul High School in Widnes (below)
Jouriya Hajjeh (left) and Chriselda Fernandes have headed to Carmel College after storming their GCSEs at Saints Peter and Paul High School in Widnes (below)
 ?? AP Photo/Hassan Ammar ?? Jouriya fled the Syrian Civil War, which has been raging since 2011 – she still has family in the country
AP Photo/Hassan Ammar Jouriya fled the Syrian Civil War, which has been raging since 2011 – she still has family in the country
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